Worrying reports have emerged from Fife where nurses have been faced with verbal abuse while working in the community during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Members of the public have mistakenly believed that because nurses are wearing uniform they posed an infection risk to those around them.
“Any form of abuse towards our staff – physical or verbal – is unacceptable”
NHS Scotland has a standard issue uniform for all nurses, leading some people to believe community nurses had left a hospital ward and gone out in the same uniform.
To meet infection prevention and control requirements, uniforms worn in the acute hospital environment are not allowed to be worn outside of the health setting.
NHS Fife has confirmed to Nursing Times that the anecdotal reports are accurate.
Director of nursing at the health board, Helen Buchanan, described the incidences as “unacceptable”.
She said: “Any form of abuse towards our staff – physical or verbal – is unacceptable.
“We have received numerous reports that our nurses, particularly those working in the community, have been on the receiving end of abuse in their normal line of duty.
“Community nursing staff are not subject to the same infection control measures as their duties are very different and, as such, are required to wear their uniforms in the line of duty.
“These reports of community nursing staff being abused are shocking and cannot be tolerated”
“The duties carried out by a community nurse may include going to the local supermarket or pharmacy for patients at this challenging time, some of whom are vulnerable and having to self-isolate, and this is likely why you will see them out and about.
“All of our nurses are very well versed in infection control precautions and it is extremely rare that you would see a nurse from our acute hospital in uniform outside of that setting.”
Norman Provan, associate director, Royal College of Nursing Scotland, responded to the reports.
He said: “These reports of community nursing staff being abused are shocking and cannot be tolerated.
“Nursing staff working in our communities will be taking all the necessary precautions to carry out their role safely and to maintain the health and wellbeing of their patients.”
Nursing Times has reported on similar instances where nurses have been called “disease spreaders” by the pubic amid panic and confusion during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Representatives from the International Council of Nurses, Physicians for Human Rights and the World Medical Association have this week called on governments around the globe to take action to prevent such abuse against nurses.